Northwest Territories to buy 8 single engine air tankers

AT-802F
Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

The Northwest Territorial government has ordered $26 million worth of single engine air tankers, an acquisition that will add new eight Air Tractor 802 Firebosses to their fleet.

Below is an excerpt from an article at CBC News:

…This is the first time the territorial government has bought new water bombers, which are used to fight fires. It inherited the current fleet of Canadair C-215s, which were introduced in 1969, from the federal government for $1.
The minister of environment and natural resources, Wally Schumann, says it makes more sense to buy the new Air Tractor 802 Fireboss aircraft than to upgrade the old fleet.

“I think the cost of doing that, from everything I’ve seen, would have been four times or five times the cost of purchasing these new Firebosses,” he said.

The government plans to issue a request for proposals this spring for the operation and maintenance of the fleet.

It could have asked contractors to provide a fleet of aircraft as well as operate and maintain them, but Schumann says many northern companies would not have been able to bid on it.

“The biggest benefit of us, the GNWT, owning a fleet of aircraft is the larger chance of Northern aviation companies to participate in the operation of the tanker based fleet,” Schumann said…

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Doug.

Estevan, Saskatchewan to be new air tanker base

The airport at Estevan, Saskatchewan will be set up as a temporary air tanker base for Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment’s firefighting aircraft.

Estevan map

Located 4 miles north of Estevan and 14 miles north of the US/Canadian border, it will be used for fires in the southern parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in North Dakota and Montana.

The airport, officially known as Estevan Regional Aerodrome (CYEN), recently had its runways resurfaced; the longest one is 5,003 feet.

The plan is to bring in two or three 5,000-gallon tanks and a retardant mixing system with pumps to reload air tankers.

The facility will be evaluated over the next two years to determine if the ministry will make the base permanent. If they do, they will invest more money into infrastructure.

Saskatchewan recently joined the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, a bilateral agreement that facilitates the sharing of ground and air firefighting resources among six U.S. states and Saskatchewan. In September the Canadian province sent two aircraft, a CV-580A air tanker and a Turbo Commander Bird Dog, on site visits to Estevan and Pierre, South Dakota to check out the airports and meet the local fire personnel.

Estevan airport
Estevan airport, four miles north of Estevan, Saskatchewan.

Bombardier closes CL-415 air tanker plant in Ontario, Canada

Alberta air tanker 202
Alberta air tanker 202. Photo by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Bombardier has shut down their plant in North Bay, Ontario where they have been finishing the work of building CL-415 air tankers after the aircraft have been assembled in Montreal. The CL-415 and its predecessor, the CL-215, are among the very few purpose-built air tankers, designed from the wheels up to very specifically drop water on fires. Most air tankers used today have been converted after being discarded by the military and passenger airlines.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Bay Today:

…Isabelle Gauthier, the Director of Communications for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft confirmed to BayToday that, “We will not be renewing our lease going forward” at North Bay’s Jack Garland Airport.
The lease ends in April 2016, but Bombardier was required to give at least 90 days notice Gauthier said.

“There are currently no aircraft in production,” explained Gauthier,”It didn’t make any business sense to continue.”

North Bay’s facility was for finishing the aircraft after assembly in Montreal, and three had been completed this year but no more were on the horizon.

“We need sales,” said Gauthier. “We need commitment to continue production.”

She said if sales are made, they may attempt to reopen the North Bay facility but “it’s not like turning on a light switch”.

“Activities are continuing for more sales”, she said, and Bombardier is “keeping the door open” to further involvement in North Bay if there are significant sales of the aircraft in future.

The video below was shot at Santa Fe Dam in January, 2014 where two CL-415s under contract with Los Angeles County were scooping water while working the Colby Fire at Glendora, California, east of Los Angeles.

13 firefighting aircraft grounded by a drone

On August 16 firefighting aircraft were forced to halt air operations on the Testalinden Creek and Wilson’s Mountain Road wildfires in British Columbia due to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (or drone) flying over the fire.

Eight helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft that were supporting firefighters were grounded, significantly impacting fire suppression operations.

The Oliver RCMP is currently working with the BC Wildfire Service in relation to this incident.

Martin Mars drops on a fire near Skutz Falls, Vancouver Island

(Originally published at 8:52 a.m. PT, July 29, 2015)

Martin Mars on Skutz Falls Fire
Martin Mars on Skutz Falls Fire. Screen shot from video by Jody Kerrone.

This image of the Martin Mars dropping on a fire near Skutz Falls on Vancouver Island yesterday is a screen shot from a video by Jody Kerrone. We are unable to embed the video here, but you can see it on the Wildfire Today Facebook page.

The Martin Mars was preceded by a jet-powered lead plane, or Bird Dog as they are called in Canada.

The British Columbia Wildfire Service reports that the fire is 10 hectares (25 acres). Two helicopters were also working on the fire.

As far as we know, this is the second fire the Martin Mars has dropped on in the last couple of weeks.

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(UPDATE at 1:46 p.m. PT, July 29, 2015)

Wednesday afternoon Coulson Flying Tankers released the following information about the mission:

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“Last night the Mars made a total of six drops on the fire at Skutz Falls. The drops averaged 21,600 litres [5,706 gallons] per drop for a total of 130,000 litres [34,342 gallons] in approximately 1.5 hrs, beginning with the first scoop at 7:30 p.m.

The turn times averaged 15 minutes per drop which was excellent with some 8 minutes drop cycles. As there were other aircraft working on the fire we had to allow them the time to get clear prior to each drop. It was an example of great teamwork, working in tandem with the other aircraft.

The current fuel load allows the Mars to stay airborne for approximately 6 hours prior to refueling. With this much fuel on board at the beginning of the scooping cycles we have to scoop a few smaller loads until we burn enough fuel to get up to maximum load capacity.

Every aircraft is the same with regard to maximum fuel load. All aircraft have to balance the amount of fuel on board and take into account the outside air temperature as well as working altitude and then factor in the load capabilities. However for the most part smaller aircraft carry only enough fuel for a maximum of 3 hours.”

Martin Mars completes first mission on BCWS contract

Martin Mars after July 18 mission
Martin Mars on Sproat Lake after a July 18, 2015 mission. Coulson Photo.

On Saturday, July 18, the Martin Mars flying boat completed its first mission under their new 30-day contract with the British Columbia Wildfire Service. According to Coulson Flying Tankers, the owner of the water-scooping air tanker that can hold up to 7,200 gallons, the aircraft flew a total of 8 hours. Of that, 4 was spent ferrying across the province and back, and the other 4 was used to drop 9 loads of water for a total of 52,800 gallons. They did it without having to land and refuel.

Coulson said the aircraft dropped 158,503 gallons in one day on fires near Lake Shasta in northern California in 2008. In the late 1970s, according to the Coulson company, the Hawaii Mars dropped 200,000 gallons in one day.

Martin Mars gets 30-day contract

Martin Mars test
A Martin Mars test water drop over Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island, B.C., July 10, 2015. Coulson photo.

The Martin Mars 7,200-gallon flying boat air tanker has received a 30-day contract with the government of British Columbia. It was serviceable on Sunday, July 12 but since then has not been dispatched to any fires.

CKNW AM radio is reporting that the contract specifies a daily availability rate of $15,000 and a flight hour rate of $6,000. The average rates for the 14 large air tankers that the U.S. currently has under exclusive use contracts are a daily rate of $22,901 and $8,408 for each flight hour. Of those 14 air tankers, 13 of them can carry up to 2,000 to 4,000 gallons, and the DC-10 holds 11,600 gallons.

On their Facebook page, Coulson Flying Tankers, the company that owns the two Martin Mars air tankers, explained how this 30-day firefighting contract will affect their previous plans to train pilots from China who will be flying a new amphibious aircraft now being built:

…Coulson has a contract with International Test Pilot School (ITPS) from Ontario, Canada dating back to October of 2014. The contract is for Chinese Test Pilots to familiarize themselves with the largest float plane in the world.

The Chinese government currently has under construction the second largest seaplane in the world called a TA 600, which these pilots will be flying.

The original contract was between July 20 to July 30, but a modified contract is now in place where the aircraft will train the test pilots between July 20-26.

Coulson has also negotiated with ITPS the condition that the Mars must stay on call to the BCFS and a procedure has been worked out to remove flight crew being trained so the Mars can go to a fire if called.

We appreciate both the flexibility of ITPS and the BCFS to work out a solution to accomplish the goal of servicing both customers.